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Candidates Should Address Issues

By The CRIMSON Staff

Last week's presidential and vice presidential debates introduced the nation to a new phenomenon in national politics. Instead of trying to score a knock-out punch with a witty insult or a derogatory swipe at a rival's character, the candidates are now attempting to appear as amicable as possible. They insist that they are actually good friends and that the differences between them are purely ideological, not personal.

The artificial pleasantness that pervades the debates is an attempt to respond to the American public's distaste for the partisan bickering that is so common in Washington. Also, both presidential candidates are concerned with overcoming the negative facets of their images. Bob Dole is trying to shed his reputation as a grouchy old hatchet man, and Bill Clinton is still seeking to appear statesmanlike and presidential, above the scandals of Paula Jones, Whitewater and Filegate.

The trend of the last two debates does not necessarily indicate a permanent retreat from mudslinging. The candidates will quickly return to personal attacks if they believe that such tactics will prove more effective. For example, Dole has grown a bit more desperate after his earnest but lackluster performance in last week's debate failed to significantly cut into Clinton's substantial, 15 to 20 point lead in the polls. Now, he is promising that in the next debate, he will grill Clinton more sternly on character and personal issues. Over the weekend, Jack Kemp, after his loud proclamations that he would stick to the high road, spouted insinuations about character deficiencies in the Clinton White House.

A debate that featured a steady exchange of character assassination would probably be more interesting to watch than a sequel to last week's debates. But the nation should not have to choose between mudslinging and shallow saccharine platitudes. Instead, Clinton and Dole could actually help the American people by responding candidly to some of the legitimate concerns about their candidacy.

Clinton should come clean about the ethical lapses in his administration, including Filegate, Whitewater and campaign finance irregularities. He should answer questions about undermining of civil liberties that has occured on his watch and his failure to pressure nations such as China and Indonesia to improve their dismal human rights records. Dole should delineate some of the spending cuts that will be necessary if his tax cut plan is enacted. He should also discuss the unprecedented access he and other Republicans granted to lobbyists for polluters who sought to rewrite environmental regulations.

However, the next debate will be held in a "town hall" format, which decreases the possibility that the candidates will face tough questions or follow-up queries. The American people will probably have to choose the lesser of two evils after listening to a mind-numbing collection of insipid cliches and metaphors about bridges.

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